Banish Shopping Anxiety: 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed When You Shop
Shopping anxiety leaves you overwhelmed and frustrated when looking for clothes. These five tips will help put an end to the style panic.
July 20, 2022
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when shopping for clothes. You walk into the store, see racks on racks of hundreds of pieces, can’t hear yourself over the loud music, and boom: the shopping anxiety hits.
We all know what happens from there. You buy the first thing that looks kinda cute or fits your body because you feel like you have to purchase something. Or you walk out empty-handed, already full of dread for your next trip. Worse, maybe you leave feeling down on yourself because you tried on super-trendy influencer pieces that you felt totally awful in.
Shopping anxiety is REAL, and it’s tough… and it’s not just limited to in-store shopping—anyone else get totally overwhelmed while scrolling through hundreds of products online? This constant overwhelm is keeping you from building a wardrobe you love that supports your personal style and identity.
Why do you feel shopping anxiety in stores?
While you may be very familiar with how shopping anxiety feels, it can be difficult to pinpoint why you’re feeling so panicked. There are three HUGE warning signs that shopping anxiety is right around the corner on your next online spree.
You don’t know what you’re looking for
If you walk into a store with no plans and no idea what you’re actually looking for, you’ll end up shopping for five things at once. Wandering aimlessly through the racks or adding 20 different pieces to your online cart is a recipe for getting overwhelmed and giving up
You need to have an idea of what you are looking for before you start shopping, whether that’s in-store or online. When you have a plan, you can easily move past items you know won’t work for you and focus solely on what you’re there to shop for in the first place. Cutting down on the amount of clothes you need to go through before checking out will seriously reduce your shopping anxiety.
You have no idea of your personal style
One thing that will derail your shopping experience? Not knowing your personal style. Without that knowledge, you’ll pick up whatever pieces you think look cool, only to discover once you get them home that yet again, don’t really feel like you. You’re building a mishmash wardrobe that leaves you confused and overwhelmed when putting together outfits each morning.
That’s why we focus on defining your style right off the bat in The Unfolding — and we don’t use inspo photos and trends as guidance. Once you have that down, you can learn how to shop strategically and build a big-picture wardrobe strategy that supports your authentic self.
Personal style is more than how you dress every day. It’s about feeling at home in your clothes so you can be fully present in your life.. Your personal style embodies your self-expression so you can live out your values and beliefs by showing up fully as yourself each day.
Shopping constantly and buying trendy clothes that you really only see on influencers isn’t shopping for your personal style. It’s more likely to get you feeling down on yourself than it is to get you a “perfect” wardrobe you feel good in.
You’re making purchase decisions in the shopping cart (aka a prime place for shopping anxiety to hit!)
The shopping cart (whether physical or digital) is NOT the place to make decisions about your wardrobe. Putting everything you’re even remotely interested in into your cart will leave you overwhelmed when you have to make a decision, because the checkout is not designed to help you think.
And when you’re feeling scrambled and overwhelmed, those feelings don’t lead to the best decisions. Instead you randomly remove or keep something to make the checkout price feel better, and who knows what you come home with? (A floofy blouse with ruffles? M&Ms?? Why did I buy this??)
When you leave your shopping decisions until the last minute, your wardrobe will be full of impulse purchases and half-hearted clothing choices that don’t feel good, don’t fit well, and leave you feeling lost in your closet.
Make decisions about the wishlist items you’re considering before you put them in your cart. Do they fit your shopping plan (I’ll talk more about this in a minute!)? Can you compare between different options easily? Take notes on pros and cons, or compare photos or try-ons? None of that happens in the shopping cart!
The stress and pressure from last minute buying choices lead straight to getting overwhelmed and giving up, especially when you have somewhere else to be, or the “exclusive” online sale ends in five minutes. (And that overwhelm? That creates dread and anxiety for next time. Which is how you end up not shopping for three years…)
Great personal style is so much more than the clothes you wear. Get the guide and discover twelve life-changing style habits you can start practicing now, so you can experience having great style, not just great outfits.
How to stop shopping anxiety from taking over
Shopping anxiety may feel inevitable, but it doesn’t have to take over every time you head to the stores! Here are five ways to stop overwhelm in its tracks and seriously smooth out your shopping experience.
Get a better sense of your personal style
Step one on your journey to end shopping anxiety once and for all is to nail down your personal style (or what your style is right now, at least — it should be ever-evolving, just like you).
Knowing your personal style makes it WAY easier to shop because you can automatically eliminate any pieces that don't align with your style profile. If you know your proportions, what colors you like, and how you prefer to combine pieces, you’ve already got a clear set of guidelines that make shopping easier. The endless options feel a lot more manageable after that—because they’re not so endless anymore!
When you put in the work to build the style habits that maintain your style (you can use my Life-Changing Style Habits guide as a cheat sheet to help you on your way), you’ll stick to your own preferences while shopping and know how to identify which pieces feel most like you.
Gone are the days of just buying what you think you need, what’s most trendy, or just whatever happens to look okay at the store. Knowing your personal style takes the guesswork out of shopping so you stop buying clothes you’ll never wear.
Don’t bring style inspo with you
This may sound a bit counterintuitive, but don’t bring any style inspiration with you when shopping. You shouldn’t be scrolling an influencer’s Instagram in between shuffling through the racks or searching for clothes online. (And frankly, just because it looked great on some 6-foot blonde model doesn’t mean it belongs on your wishlist.)
This distracts you from your unique personal style and your shopping plan. Constantly shifting between what’s in front of you and what’s in a (likely photoshopped) image is a surefire way to feel bad about your body and your wardrobe.
The kicker is that when you’re feeling bad about your body and wardrobe, guess what we often do? We want to shop. We want to buy some new piece that will “fix” us. But then you try it on, and it doesn’t work, making you feel even worse, and you think, it must be me that is the problem. Definitely not a mental state conducive to making great purchase decisions.
Instead, you want to focus on finding items that fit your unique personality, not things that just look like what everyone else is wearing.
Related: 3 Signs You're Stuck In a Style Rut and 5 Ways to Break Out of It
Be purposeful when you’re shopping
You’ve got to be purposeful when shopping (whether in-store or online) so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices you can pick from. Go into each mall trip with a plan. Figure out what you need to buy in advance and stick to it, even if that means going into an extra store or two to find everything.
If you have multiple things on your wishlist, try to shop for one item at a time. Find the pair of pants you need, then switch over to the shoe department to search for new boots, and finish off in the accessories section to grab the necklace you’ve been wanting. Trying to find everything all at the same time leaves you scatterbrained in stores and gives shopping anxiety room to take over.
Don’t rush yourself in stores
Think of the last time you went shopping in a rush. You probably panic-bought a few things you didn’t actually need and ended up purchasing clothes that didn’t fit well because they were your only options. Putting pressure on yourself to be go-go-go the entire shopping trip just leads to shopping anxiety and poor decision-making.
Give yourself time to shop slowly and seriously consider each item of clothing you find. Leave time to try on the clothes and imagine how you’d style them, or schedule a snack break between stores for a quick recharge. Know the signs of overwhelm and take a moment to yourself when they start to show up.
And don’t forget: you can bring your shopping plan, notes, a checklist, or decision-making questions into the store with you! Inspo and planning doesn’t have to be left at home.
Related: What is personal style and why is it so important?
Remember that you don’t have to buy anything
Just because you’re shopping doesn’t mean you have to buy anything. If you’ve searched the racks and nothing you’ve found fits your plan for this trip, that’s okay. You can leave the store empty-handed! A “shopping trip” can just be research.
You can try on new styles to see if you like them… and leave them behind if not. You can go try on specific items from different stores and determine what works best and what doesn’t. At the end of the day you’ll have learned a lot— no purchase necessary.
If you feel like you have to get something, you’re more likely to get distracted from your personal style, leading you to settle for clothes that aren’t right for you. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. You can always come back to the mall on another day, or exit out of the website and try a different store.
Buying an item just to say you bought something during your shopping trip is never the right move. A wardrobe that is perfectly you isn’t made from clothes that are “just fine” or “good enough.” It’s more than worth it to press pause on your shopping endeavor (and press stop on shopping anxiety) and come back to the search when you’re ready.
It’s super easy to get lost in shopping anxiety while on the search for new clothes, but putting an end to the overwhelm takes effort. The most important thing is to know your personal style and always stick to it while looking for new pieces in stores or online. In The Unfolding, we’ll go step by step to define your personal style so you can shop strategically and build a wardrobe that’s authentic to you.